Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Demolition Man

I got a free copy of Demolition Man from flixster awhile back, and I just not got around to watching it.

Now I know why it was free. It's awful. If you like the 90's Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd movie, you may enjoy Demolition Man. The premise is thus, a crazy cop catches a crazy killer in psuedo 1996 and they are both sentenced to a cryo-freeze. The crazy killer is awoken in 2032 and only one man can stop him, the same cop who caught him years before. Sylvester Stallone plays John Spartan, our crazy cop, while Wesley Snipes plays killer Simon Pheonix. Its here in this film that you can see the beginnings of Stallone's Expendables character Barney Ross. Same gruff demeanor, same black wardrobe, same black beret.

Pheonix and Spartan (what comic book-y names right?) awake in idyllic future in 2032. Everything bad for you has been outlawed. Salt, spices, tobacco, alchohol, cursing, and even sex are longer allowed. Crime is virtually non-existent, so much so that the cops here don't carry guns but stun batons, and also don't know the 3-digit codes that cops use. So when crazed maniac Pheonix wakes up, they don't know how to handle him, because they don't do real police work past fining people for cursing. That leads them to wake up John Spartan for him to catch Simon Pheonix.

The action stuff is pretty 90's action fare. Nothing extraordinary, by today's standards pretty pedestrian. What is more interesting is this 1993 version of the future in 2032. Cars drive themselves, toilet paper no longer exists, every restaurant is Taco Bell (emerging victorious in the franchise wars), kimono inspired casual wear, as well as voice activated everything. Also, there is no more kissing or physical contact. Sex happens through two virtual reality headsets, not through physical means. It's a very detachd future and our big gruff Sylvester Stallone stands out against it. Beneath this idyllic society is a Mad-Max like underground who cook burgers with rat meat but also have salt and beer, things the word above does not. I thought the most interesting things about this world had to do with the future and would have liked so see a different film where instead of an action hero, he comes out and deals more with the politics and problems of this future world. Throw Wesley Snipes' over the top character out the window and move on.

Like I stated above, if you like Stallone's Judge Dredd, check this out. If you don't, don't bother with this film unless you want to visit this wacky future.

2 out of 5 Stars


Insidious: Chapter 2

One of the great horror movie suprises from the last couple of years was Insidious. The movie was eerie and frightening without relying on gore the way the Saw films have used to death. What was also cool was it's totally off the wall and original premise. That dead spirits could posess the bodies of those who can walk the astral plane. They live in "The Further" a spirit world that kind of lives in the same space ours does. That's how we can see the spirits and they can see us. Hauntings are simply our world crashing into theirs.

Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up almost immediately after the first film. Rose Byrne's character is being interviewed by the police about the events of the first film, which provides a nice recap for those who saw the first film when it came out in 2011, but also for people just coming into Chapter 2 as their first Insidious film. It's hard to discuss the plot of the film, since it completely spoils the cliffhanger of the first film, but let's just say things are not all right with the family who believe they've just lived through a terrifying ordeal.

Our family is living at Josh Lambert's mother's house while the cops investigate their residence, since a character died there at the end of the first film. As they start to come down from the hauntings, new ones start. Not the same sprits, but similar things. Seeing things in the mirror, children's toys going off in the middle of the night, loud noises, etc. But Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) thinks there is something wrong with her husband Josh, and his mother goes to find our ghost hunting characters from the last movie to find out how to stop the disturbances.

Wan proved he was a master of the horror genre with the first Insidious, and he continues the same style with this movie. It's very well done, with lots of twists and turns that don't feel recylced from the first film. It trully feels like a second chapter of a single story and not a typical horror sequel. Check this movie out, it is very well done.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Conjuring

Another James Wan film! It seemed like The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2 came out back to back, but they were really months apart. Also, both star Patrick Wilson. Even though they are both horror films, they are entirely different.

The Conjuring focuses on Ed and Lorraine Warren who where paranormal investigators in the 1960's and 1970's. This film focuses on one particular tale, one "that's never been told before." While the Insidious films exist in the modern day and have nothing to do with religion, The Conjuring exist in the vein of The Exorcist. The Warren's are intensely Catholic, with Ed Warren the only "demonologist" recognized by the Catholic church. Lorraine is a clairvoyant and can feel things just by touching them, whether it be people or things.

The Perron family moves into an old house in New England and soon after they get settled, they find out it is haunted. Carolyn Perron visits one of the Warren's college lectures and implores them to take a look at her house. They don't want to, and they almost write her off with "most things have a logical explanation". I found this strange, as the Warren's were the premier paranormal investigators at the time, so why would they write this woman off so quickly? They visit the house and immediately find out that it is the epicenter of a lot of hauntings and mysterious deaths over the last 150 years. As you can probably guess, after this they work to purge the house of these evil spirits and demons and go through a terrifying ordeal.

One of the things I like about James Wan's style is that keeps everything on a realistic bent. You're always feeling like this could happen to you. He never takes the audience for granted, and lets them in on any secret, so that they always know what is happening, and at the same time manages to suprise them at every turn. James Wan is a true modern master of horror, I hope he finds time to return to the genre after Fast and Furious 7. If you liked Insidious check this out. And if you liked The Conjuring check out Insidious.

4 out of 5 stars



Monday, February 3, 2014

Carrie

I rented the 2013 remake of Carrie and I liked it! I've never seen the original 70's movie, or read the book, but I enjoyed this movie! Now, it's not the most terrifying movie I've ever seen, but it does use suspense very well. And even though I knew the premise of the movie and what happened at the end, I couldn't help feeling sorry for Carrie, as portrayed by Chloe Grace Moretz. Carrie is about a young girl, raised by a fanatically delusional religious mother, Julianne Moore. She is stuck wearing very traditional homemade clothes (long sleeves, long skirts, etc), and is constantly teased by her classmates, one girl in particular. While this happens, Carrie gets her first period in the locker room and her telekinetic powers begin to emerge. As they emerge Carrie feels more sure of herself. We see her transformation from shy young girl to teenager who is discovering her inner strength, as well as her powers. Another journey that I thought played against convention was the hot blone (Gabriella Wilde) being sympathetic to Carrie. She was the hottest girls in school, the lead cheerleader, but not the main bully. After the first bully encounter this girl became sympathetic to Carrie and stood up for her, but always without Carrie knowing.

Chloe Grace Moretz gives a very likeable performance. I always felt sorry for Carrie. Even when she stopped beinga victim and became the victimizer, I cheered her on. This might have to do with the modern day setting with the facebook messages, cyber-bullying, etc. I think that's what keeps this film relevant today, is the modern update. I liked it. I know not everyone did or might think the original is better, but this film makes me want to read the book, or visit the original film, which is what a good remake does.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Rush

Rush is a totally overlooked movie. It was FANTASTIC! It was directed by Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as two Formula One racecar drivers that have a career long rivalry. This is based on a true story and takes place in the 1970's on the formula one circuit, all over the world. NASCAR is more popular here in the U.S. and I've never watched a whole race in my life, but I could see myself watching some Formula One. Just for the fact that they are so low to the ground and make both left and right turns instead of just lapping a track over and over and over again!

James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) are rivals from early on in their career. James is the hotshot driver, more into booze and women than memorizing the track. Niki is the exact opposite, a brilliant car engineer, and recognizes the intricacies of each track he races on before even stepping foot onto the track. As you can probably imagine, they clash, and clash hard on the track. Ron Howard deftly captures the great performances as well as the dangers of Formula One racing. These drivers are basically strapped on top on an engine and wheels. The only safety items in the car are the ones they are wearing, a helmet and firesuit. Howard makes it feel like they are riding a rocket one inch off the ground. He really makes the races exciting and you feel the rush, as it were, with each race sequence.

I think what may have happened with this movie being overlooked was the story. It's not a typical sports underdog to champion story. This movie is more about the relationship Hunt and Lauda have with their cars, their wives, and each other while at their career peaks. It's hard to say more without ruining the story, but it's extremely well acted and well done, and should be sought out as soon as possible. Also, don't go to Wikipedia and look up the history, do that after you view the film, don't ruin it for yourself!

4 out of 5 Stars

Her

I saw Spike Jonze's Her a few weeks ago. I'll try to write a longer post on it, but since my memory is usually short, it may or may not hold up. The film however, does have a lot of things to talk about so we may luck out.

Her stars Joaquin Pheonix and Scarlett Johansson. Joaquin plays our lonely schlub hero Theodore, who works as a letter writer for www.beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. This takes place in the future where people pay others to write their love letters for them. Theodore is a pretty basic guy, he goes to work, then back home, and play video games after a hurtful divorce with his wife. Just as the movie opens, he downloads a new OS for his phone/computer that is the world's first indpendent artificial intelligence that learns you and your whims and develops a personality. Enter Samantha (Scarlett Johannson), Theodore's OS. They quickly strike up a conversation, and after hours and hours they start to have emotional feelings for each other. What's neat about this film is that while it's a romance, it's also a sci-fi movie. The tech is advanced, but not so advanced that it makes it implausible. Everything works with voice controls, no one types, it's all speaking to you phone or computer screen. Mouse inputs no longer exist, you simply move your hand on your desk and the monitor picks it up. What's also cool is that your phone/PDA OS and your computer OS are the same, so its all linked. Similar to what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8. Also, throughout the film we get little glances into the world outside. Theodore and Samantha are not the only human/OS's that are dating. This is a new phenomenon happening all around the world. Also, the OS's are talking to each other, and starting communities amongst themselves. There are a couple more developments beyond that but it might ruin the story. What I really liked was not only did the filmmakers wonder how a man could have a romantic relationship with an OS, but also, what impact would a super-intelligent OS have on the world? What they come up with is astounding and plausible. At no point did I think that this world was too sci-fi to believe.

The actors in the film are also very good. As usual, Joaquin Pheonix is incredible and deeply nuanced. Scarlett Johansson is great as Samantha, even if we never see her onscreen. She uses a lot of affectations in her voice in her performance, so I'm wondering how many takes she did for each line. Can a whole different movie be in alternate takes? Instead of a sweet person, is there a version where Theodore falls in love with a complete bitch?

If Her is still in theaters near you, seek it out, you won't regret it. It's definitely wierd, and unusual from what hollywood puts out these days but also incredibly good.

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, January 10, 2014

2 Guns

2 Guns! Now this was a joy to watch! This was just a good fun movie! Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington are two buddys that steal from the wrong people and have to dig themselves out of the whole by the end of the film. One thing about the plot that I didn't really enjoy was that BOTH Mark and Denzel's characters turn out to be undercover cops, one with DEA, and one a disgraced Navy SEAL. Neither of them know that each other is undercover, and that moves a plot a little but some of it was a little hard to believe. For example: I don't believe that an ex-Navy SEAL could do some off the books job and then get accepted back into the Navy. There's too much paperwork involved. So if they were just two crooks or con men, I think the movie may have benefited a smidge.

If they make a sequel, and they might because this film made a lot of money in August, the fact that they don't have to hide from one another will help the chemistry. Aside from the main leads, there are a lot of talented actors in this film. Paula Patton is here as Denzel's girlfriend and DEA agent does a nice job. It was nice to see her after Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. She's talented and has a more real world quality than some other actresses. Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, and James Marsden all play against type here. All are playing more grey or villainous roles, a turn from what you see them in. Edward James Olmos is almost unrecognizable here and does a great job as the Mexican Cartel leader. Bill Paxton plays a rougue agent and was fun to watch, a large turn from his Big Love role. Check this movie out any way you can. I really enjoyed it and I think you will to.

4 out of 5 stars